July 2015 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Moving Into Attitude Derrière & Développé

Photo by Becky Montalvo

I frequently end barre combinations with a pirouette into attitude derrière. It’s good for students to feel the passé-to-attitude transition and practice balancing out of it. Left unchecked, however, students may contort their torsos and lean toward the barre trying to get the attitude leg up high.

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DSL NewsWire: Maggie Black, Who Taught Top Dancers of All Disciplines, Dies at Age 85

Maggie Black, who for decades earned renown for teaching famous ballet and modern dancers how to leap and turn in ways, as she put it, that “humans weren’t really made to do,” configuring their bodies to avoid injuries and even to heal them, died on May 11 at her home in East Hampton, New York. She was 85.

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DSL NewsWire: Web Series Follows Young Hopefuls at Miami City Ballet School

The first season of Strictly Ballet, a web series from Teen Vogue that documents the lives of up-and-coming dancers vying for a coveted spot in a world-renowned ballet company, focused on New York City Ballet. This season the series takes a trip south: to the shores of Miami Beach.

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DSL NewsWire: Laid-Off Sacramento Ballet Dancers Organize Own Performance

More than 20 dancers with Sacramento Ballet were laid off last week in a cost-cutting move, and now are cramming for a performance they had organized on their own in just a matter of days.

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DSL NewsWire: Anecdotes and Accolades Remembered on ABT’s 75th Anniversary Website

ABT’s 75th anniversary website; photo by Fabrizio Ferri

American Ballet Theatre invites fans to join in the company’s continued celebration of its 75th anniversary by perusing a new website that highlights ABT through the decades.

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DSL NewsWire: Study Shows Hip-Hop Tops Ballet for Children’s Exercise

Pediatrics study; photo courtesy Getty Images

A study published in the journal Pediatrics says that only 30 percent of ballet class is spent in substantial exercise, and that most kinds of dance classes aren’t providing anywhere near the recommended amounts of physical activity suggested for children and adolescents, says Time magazine.

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DSL NewsWire: Des Moines’ Grand Dame of Dance, Mary Joyce Lind Thomas, Dies

Mary Joyce (Lind) Thomas; photo by Bill Neibergall/Des Moines Register

The 90-year-old grand dame of Des Moines, Iowa, dance took her final bow May 10. Mary Joyce (Lind) has died after teaching thousands of students in a career that spanned more than 70 years, reported the Des Moines Register.

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DSL NewsWire: SF Ballet School Hosts Open House for Boys

San Francisco Ballet School students in class; photo copyright Erik Tomasson

San Francisco Ballet School—America’s first professional ballet school—will host a free open house on Saturday, May 16 at 1pm, for boys ages 8 to 11 and their parents to find out more about the school’s boy’s training program. The event includes a facility tour, rehearsal observation, and Q&A session with school staff. No ballet experience is needed. To register, visit school.sfballet.org/boys or call 415.865.6700.

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DSL NewsWire: View From the Wings Inspired Filmmaker to Create ABT Documentary

American Ballet Theatre: A History; photo courtesy Monsters & Critics

There are many ballet documentaries—including a couple on the American Ballet Theatre—but none has ever described the essence and beauty of dance as masterfully as Ric Burns’ American Ballet Theatre: A History, premiering May 15 at 9pm on PBS’ American Masters.

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DSL NewsWire: Autistic Children, Kids and Moms, Invited to Ballet San Jose’s Cinderella

Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley’s Cinderella; photo courtesy Facebook

Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley is running two special outreach programs in connection with this weekend’s production of Ben Stevenson’s Cinderella that will allow children with special needs, plus underserved children and their mothers, to attend live performances of the classic ballet.

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DSL NewsWire: One of the 20th-Century Ballet Greats, Maya Plisetskaya, Dies at 89

Maya Plisetskaya; photo courtesy Reuters

Maya Plisetskaya, a star of Russia’s Bolshoi ballet who overcame a legacy of Stalinist oppression to redefine her art and be feted as the greatest ballerina of her generation, has died in Germany.

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May-June 2015 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Controlling Pirouettes

Photo by Becky Montalvo

When a student’s upper body is not active in a pirouette, the turn itself begins to suffer. It’s not only important to maintain a turned-out passé, high relevé, and strong spot; a dancer’s torso (the back and core muscles) must also be engaged throughout the turn.

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May-June 2015 | Ballet Scene | Teacher Transformation

Khilea Douglass, a teacher at Lula Washington Dance Theatre, says Project Plie has given her new teaching tools; an awareness of structure and child development. Photo by Mesiyah McGinnis

When American Ballet Theatre initiated its outreach program Project Plié in 2013, the company’s CEO, Rachel Moore, was clear about the lack of diversity in ballet schools and companies and the need to mitigate the problem. “My observation is that currently in the U.S. none of the major ballet companies have a female principal dancer of color,” says Moore. “I think it’s a real problem because American ballet companies should look like America. As the demographics of this country change, in order for ballet companies to remain relevant, we need to change with them.”

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May-June 2015 | FYI

Taking a bow at the 11th International Competition for The Erik Bruhn Prize are winners (from left) Yury Yanowsky,, Hannah Fischer, and Carlo Di Lanno. Photo by Bruce Zinger

What’s up in the dance community:

Filmmakers Tap Into Inspiration

Dance in Hidden Spaces

Chicago Dance History Project

Erik Bruhn Prize Winners

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DSL NewsWire: Inspirational Misty Copeland’s Own Motivation Was Nadia Comaneci

Misty Copeland on Time magazine cover; photo courtesy the New York Times

“Like all gymnasts, I’ve done some ballet—it’s a part of our program. And people don’t realize the tremendous amount of time and work you have to put in to do the maneuvers they do. Ballerinas like Misty Copeland look so beautiful and perfect, but it takes thousands of hours of hard work to make it look that easy.”

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March-April 2015 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Finger Turns

Photo by Becky Montalvo

For successful finger turns, it’s important for the female partner to ronde de jambe her working leg a full 90 degrees, from devant to à la seconde, before pulling it back into a turned-out passé.

As pairs practice, have them work together to find equal opposing force between the female dancer’s supporting arm and the male dancer’s push-off arm.

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February 2015 | Ballet Scene | Offstage Insights

BalletSceneT

In ballet, many are called but few are chosen, and tradition has long held that no one is obliged to explain why one dancer makes the cut and another does not. That wasn’t the case for contestants at last June’s USA International Ballet Competition (IBC) in Jackson, Mississippi. Dancers who did not advance through the rounds—or receive the award or medal they hoped for—could uncover the secrets of that elusive “why not me” by participating in the IBC’s Competitor Evaluation Program.

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February 2015 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Glissades in Petit Allegro

Photo by Becky Montalvo

Glissades are common connecting steps for jumps and therefore important for students to master. There are two major types: 1) glissades in petit allegro, which close in fifth position, and 2) glissades in medium or grand allegro, which failli through fifth to end in or continue through fourth position.

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February 2015 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Chauniece Conner Thompson

Chauniece Thompson makes sure students such as Morgan Rucker are prepared for every dance opportunity. Photo by Antoine Lever

NOMINATED BY: Joy Sheffield, friend: “Chauniece opened Ballet on Wheels in 2002 to help build a better Memphis community through dance. Chauniece ensures her students are well-prepared for every dance opportunity. She gives her dance staff full discretion in their classrooms and encourages them to come up with innovative ideas to engage students in the classroom and through community-based dance programs. She’s making a positive impact on her students, staff, and community.”

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January 2015 | Ballet Scene | French Lessons

Genevieve Le Gall Fortner (far right) and Erika Farrar-Bowen (second from left) took students sightseeing to flesh out a trip focused on ballet. Photo by Sarah Frances Hardy

Ballet is a beautiful art form, but the day-to-day work involved isn’t always glamorous. It can be hard for students to think of themselves as participants in a grand artistic tradition when they’re repeating exercises for the 500th time. That’s what Genevieve Le Gall Fortner, the founder and director of Oxford Ballet School in Oxford, Mississippi, noticed over a period of several years: her ballet students lacked motivation.

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January 2015 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Diagonals and Pirouettes

Photo by Becky Montalvo

We teach beginning dancers to face the corners of the room squarely when in effacé and croisé. As dancers become more advanced, they will need to adjust to facing along a flatter diagonal.

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December 2014 | Higher-Ed Voice | Jazz Dance x 3

Many American colleges, conservatories, and universities offer dance programs, but few include a concentration in jazz alongside ballet and modern. Although it may seem odd that jazz dance, a truly American art form, isn’t routinely taken as seriously as other dance forms, a few university programs still keep jazz dance education’s flame alive.

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December 2014 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Shoulder Sits

For a right shoulder sit, start with the female standing in fifth position in front of the male, whose hands are low on her waist; the female assemblés as a preparation.

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December 2014 | EditorSpeak

Where were you on October 1? If you’re a ballet lover, you were probably glued to your computer, watching live feeds from five world-class companies: Bolshoi Ballet, The Royal Ballet, The Australian Ballet, The National Ballet of Canada, and San Francisco Ballet.

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December 2014 | FYI

Capezio Dance Award winner Cynthia Gregory popularized ballet through her onstage artistry and with appearances in popular media. Photo by Virginia Trudeau

What’s up in the dance community:

Capezio Hails Cynthia Gregory

Ailey Board Leader Joan H. Weill Retires

Geoffrey Holder, Man of Many Arts, Dies

Remembering Owen Goldman, Dancer Publisher

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December 2014 | Ballet Scene | Tutu Fabulous

Making costume confections takes skill, patience, and years of experience By Karen White Take tulle and satin, rhinestones and ribbon. Mix with knowledge and experience. Sprinkle on a creative touch with a dash of daring. Voila! A tutu. “It’s a fantasy thing. It’s so iconic,” says Claudia Folts, a former . . .

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November 2014 |2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Souped-Up Sauts de Basque

One of the biggest problems when learning a saut de basque is that students tend to do a rond de jambe with the working leg instead of brushing it through à la seconde and maintaining it on the same axis as the torso throughout the jump. It is difficult to hold the passé position in the air while spotting and turning; the extra torque from the rond de jambe makes it even harder.

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November 2014 | FYI

What’s up in the dance community:

An Academic Approach to Ballet

Elite Treatment

The Power of Dance

Storm-Battered NYC Artists Show Resilience

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November 2014 | Ballet Scene | Up, Up, and Plié!

“The arts are a powerful force!” Pumping their fists in the air, dozens of students in a school auditorium scream the motto of The Corps of 4 in “Dr. Injury Returns!”—Milwaukee Ballet’s high-energy, superhero-themed Ballet-in-a-Box, just one of the company’s many community outreach programs. Aimed primarily at grades pre-K through 8, and tapping into the popularity of superheroes in pop culture, this imaginative program highlights the athleticism, discipline, and history of ballet.

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November 2014 | Bright Biz Idea | Coffee Klatch Meets Ballet

Hosting Project Ballet Coffee Hour is one of Ana Marsden Fox’s favorite things to do. The executive director of State Ballet of Rhode Island (SBRI), Marsden Fox stands off to the side as everyone settles in, beaming at their eager faces, her excitement palpable.

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November 2014 | Dance Without Limits | Special Delivery

Imagine a typical ballet class: a teacher demonstrates a combination of steps while her students watch. The students then perform the steps, mimicking the qualities they observed in their teacher’s movements. For a visually impaired student, this teaching model is, at best, only moderately effective, for the success of this approach depends chiefly upon the ability of the student to see her instructor. That’s only one example of the complexity of making dance classes available to all students, including those with special needs.

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November 2014 | Dancing a Mile in Their Shoes

When Tim Murray brought his 3-year-old daughter to dance class, he was met with a surprise: it was parent participation day. With some trepidation, he dove into class, practicing pliés and tippy-toeing, surrounded by a flock of what he called “little pink, fluffy ducklings” and their mothers. Murray’s experience in his daughter’s class at Joanne Grace School of Dance, in Fairy Meadow, New South Wales, Australia, was in turn mortifying, challenging, and enlightening—so much so that he went on to publish a blog post about it on mamamia.com.au: “The one thing this dad never expected when he dropped his daughter at ballet.”

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October 2014 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Flexed Feet

A flexed foot is rarely used in ballet technique (one exception is frappé, depending on which style you teach), but is extremely important for any student to be aware of, for many reasons. One of the most important is to allow the dancer to isolate and fully utilize the hamstring muscles. When doing a slow, controlled, flexed-foot lift of the fully extended leg to a tendu height, students can feel maximum turnout without having to think about pointing the foot.

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October 2014 | Classroom Connection

This year I taught a pre-ballet class for 6-year-olds. At first they were unfocused, bored, and sloppy while working at the barre. So I bought rolls of colored ribbon and told the dancers that anyone who did the best plié, tendu, or other barre exercise would get a ribbon—a Ballet Bow. I walked around the class and tied these around the ponytails or buns of students who were doing good work. I have never had a class work so hard on their technique before.

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October 2014 | FYI

Archival images from ABT’s past include this 1947 photo of Ballet Theatre artistic committee members (from left) Jerome Robbins, Lucia Chase, Agnes de Mille, Oliver Smith, and Aaron Copland. Photo by Cecil Beaton

What’s up in the dance community:

ABT’s Past Now a National Treasure

Dancing to Encourage Dialogue

Second Princess Grace Award for Hallberg

Preserving the Legacy of Postmodern Dance

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October 2014 | Ballet Scene |Ballet in Cleveland

Every gardener knows that if you want to raise tomatoes in a pot or peas in the ground, you need to give your seedlings the right mix of soil, water, and sunshine. Otherwise, forget about even thinking of harvesting a halfway decent crop. Arts entrepreneur Jessica Wallis, a former elementary school teacher who was once an aspiring ballerina, knows how to create a good environment for what she wants to grow: ballet in Cleveland.

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September 2014 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Cambré Devant and Dèrriere

Cambré devant, done between barre exercises, stretches fatigued muscles. The muscles most in need of a break are the gluteus maximus. Cambré derrière is a stretch of the back, not a compression of the spine. In addition, the dancers should pull up in the leg and gluteus maximus muscles and find more turnout through the entire motion.

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September 2014 | Classroom Connection

Games make learning proper ballet technique fun for young children.

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August 2014 | FYI

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What’s up in the dance community:

Dance Competitions: From Stage to Screen

Reveling in the Joy of Revelations

Lessons in Movement

USA IBC Crowns Ballet’s Bright Future

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August 2014 | On My Mind

Photo by Mim Adkins

Beautiful technique, gorgeous feet, and a whole lot of desire for excellence—that’s how I would describe the world-class ballet dancers I saw at the 2014 USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi. From classes to performances to teacher workshops, everything about the event was a class act.

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August 2014 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Tackling Tours

Tours are one of the most important steps for male ballet dancers to master. The most important tip is to practice tours every day. Here are some other tips for perfecting them.

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August 2014 | Ballet Scene | Pointe Prep

“When can I go on pointe?” It’s a question young dancers often ask with bated breath.

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July 2014 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Preparing for Big Jumps

To achieve grand allegro jumps such as grand jeté, tour jeté, assemblé devant, fouetté, and cabriole fouetté, students must be able to do a strong, square, and properly placed 90-degree sauté in grand battement devant with arms in high fifth position.

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July 2014 | Thinking Out Loud | Mixed Messages

The following Facebook post got the English National Ballet School into hot water last January: “Fabulous to have students and staff back in school after the Xmas break. Time to work off all that Xmas food.”

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July 2014 | Ballet Scene | A Sensory-Sensitive Show

Megan Naughton, the mother of four children, remembers going to Nutcracker with her grandmother, and loving it. “I so much wanted this experience to be available to my family,” says the Pittsburgh-area resident, who studied ballet through high school and still takes class (usually hip-hop) whenever she can. But until last Christmas, seeing a Nutcracker wasn’t possible for her two boys, ages 7 and 9, because they have autism. Then Naughton heard that Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre had designed a version of the holiday favorite that her boys could enjoy.

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May-June 2014 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Polished Pirouettes

When broken down to its simplest form, a pirouette is a quick passé with a relevé and a spot—period. It doesn’t matter how many spots are done. Doing fewer pirouettes with a proper classical ballet finish is always preferable to multiple pirouettes with a sloppy finish.

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May-June 2014 | FYI

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What’s up in the dance community:

Atlanta’s Own “That Girl”

A Spitball o’ Both Your Houses

Humor Moves to Hubbard Street

Applause for Lerman and Brown

A Fitting Finale

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May-June 2014 | Ballet Scene | Shuffles and Chassés

You wouldn’t expect to find tap among the offerings at Thomas Armour Youth Ballet, a Miami studio rooted in ballet since 1951. But today this classical ballet school, formerly called The Miami Conservatory, encourages students ages 7 and up to study tap and ballet; for the members of its Tap Team, both forms of dance are required. The result? A win-win scenario.

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March-April 2014 | EditorSpeak

There are two singing ensembles in my area. One boasts 100 chosen-by-audition voices trilling out six-part harmonies. In performances the singers wear black-tie garb and are accompanied by a professional orchestra—with a harp.

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